Want to know what the deal is with Vibram soles? You’re definitely in the right place then!
This detailed guide to Vibram soles covers everything you need to know about the outsoles that dominate the market and the company that stands behind them. From how to correctly pronounce Vibram to the different sustainable practices the company employs, we’ve covered everything that you might want to know about Vibram.
And about their soles, naturally! Why are they so special, are they really that good, and how long do they last are just some of the questions that are answered in this detailed guide. Read on to learn everything worth knowing about Vibram and their shoe soles!
First thing’s first – let’s clear up the dilemma on how to correctly pronounce Vibram. Because this is an Italian company, the I in Vibram is pronounced the same way as the I in pizza, which means that the correct way to pronounce is Vib-ram and not Vibe-ram.
Additionally, the company was named after its founder, Vitale Bramani. The name Vibram is just a combination of the first two letters of his first name and the first four letters of his last name. And because his first name is pronounced Vee-tale, it makes sense that the company name is pronounced in the same way.
Does it actually matter? Probably not, because most people pronounce it wrong anyway.
Well, Vibram soles were the first-ever shoe soles that were made with vulcanized rubber. I’d say that makes them pretty special, especially when you also consider the entire backstory that led to their creation.
Vibram is an Italian company named after its founder – Vitale Bramani. He decided to create rubber soles after an unfortunate mountaineering incident left six of his close friends dead in 1935.
He blamed their deaths partially on inappropriate footwear – the most common type of sole during that time was felt, which was neither a good insulator nor did it provide the wearer with enough grip and traction for the Alps.
Two years after the accident, Bramani patented his invention. He teamed up with Pirelli (the tire manufacturer) for financial backing. Bramani even came up with an entirely new tread design that’s known as Carramato (tank tread). That tread design is so common nowadays that I guarantee you have at least one pair of shoes with it in your closet. Go ahead and check – I’m not going anywhere.
Vibram soles are mostly made of vulcanized rubber, which is exactly what makes them so special. Well, maybe they’re not as special today since there are now quite a few different sole manufacturers that use all types of rubber, but they certainly were something new and one of a kind at their initial launch. Vibram is the brand that led the change nearly a century ago, and it’s fair to question whether we’d still be wearing shoes with felt soles without them.
It’s worth noting that Vibram has expanded into different markets since its launch, entering the casual clothes market with lightweight EVA soles, as well as developing several different types of soles for different purposes.
They still mostly use rubber, but the exact types depend on the type of sole. Their Ecostep and Ecostep EVO collections use 30% recycled Vibram rubber, while the Vibram N-Oil sole is made with 90% natural ingredients.
Vibram is an Italian company with factories in several different countries all over the world. Currently, Vibram soles are manufactured in the United States, Brazil, Italy, China, and the Czech Republic.
Another thing to consider here is the Vibram soles are also used by more than 1,000 footwear manufacturers all over the world, so it’s safe to say you can find a pair of shoes with Vibram soles anywhere on the planet.
It’s worth mentioning that sustainable practices are important to the company and this applies to both the supply chain and factory workers. Vibram audits their suppliers to ensure they are in compliance with labor laws of the country and they have a zero-tolerance policy for suppliers who violate their ethics code.
There are a lot of benefits to having Vibram soles on your shoes. The number one benefit is durability – Vibram soles are easily the most durable shoe soles on the planet. They can last for years, and even decades if you don’t wear the shoes that often. They don’t really disintegrate over time – the only way to wear down the soles is to actually wear the shoes.
Additionally, Vibram soles usually feature very deep lugs – about 5mm. That’s great because it makes the shoe last longer, without sacrificing the performance that much. Sure, you won’t have the same level of grip and traction after two years as you had when the shoes were new out of the box, but you can find a different use for them that’s more suitable for the state of the sole.
Also, it’s really easy to replace Vibram soles. The brand works with shoemakers all over the world, and you can have a professional just resole your shoes when the original Vibram sole gets too worn down.
Another huge benefit of Vibram soles is an amazing performance. They do not disappoint – there’s a reason why the soles are pricey, and it’s because the performance is consistent and out of this world. On the other hand, it’s important to note that you should look for shoes that have a Vibram sole that is good for the specific purpose you need them for.
In other words, if you want boots with Vibram soles that you can wear from September through April, go with Vibram Arctic Grip All-Terrain instead of the plain Arctic Grip. You can read more about all the different types of soles on their site, so it’s pretty easy to figure out what works best for which purposes.
Vibram shoe soles are incredibly durable and that’s one of their main selling points. At one point in time, this company manufactured soles for the safety market. Those the first soles ever to be guaranteed for the life of the shoe, which is pretty amazing.
However, I can’t tell you the exact lifetime of a shoe with a Vibram sole. It mostly depends on how often you wear them – if they’re your favorite hiking boots that you wear every weekend, I’d say you’re set for the next two years at the very least. With some of their thicker and more rugged soles, you can get about 18 months of everyday use, which is pretty amazing.
Also, if we’re talking about shoes that spend most of their life sitting in your closet and you only wear them a few times a year, then you’re good for the next decade, at the very least.
When you notice that the soles have worn down so much you no longer feel stable in your shoes, it’s time to get them re-soled.
Vibram Arctic Grip is a very popular sole in hiking and mountaineering (winter) boots. And for good reasons – Arctic Grip is the brand’s most advanced gripping system ever. The soles are made entirely from rubber without any metal inserts, which is an entirely new approach to designing soles that have great traction on ice.
Arctic Grip soles are specifically designed for great performance on wet ice, but they still feature staple Vibram quality and durability. The main design feature of these soles is wide lugs – with a wider contact surface you just have more stability and grip on slippery terrain.
There’s also Arctic Grip All-Terrain – what’s that all about? Well, it’s pretty much just an upgraded version of the original Arctic Grip sole. The All-Terrain version is combined with Vibram’s latest lug pattern and compound, the XS Trek Evo. This makes the soles perform better on dry terrain while maintaining exceptional performance on wet and icy surfaces.
It pretty much just extends the period when you can wear the shoe – instead of being able to wear it only in the dead of winter, you can now wear the shoes in late fall and early spring, with consistent performance of the shoe regardless of the weather and terrain.
Vibram Arctic Grip (All-Terrain) is recommended for use in hiking, skiing, trail running, snowboarding, and casual wear.
I don’t think you can repair Vibram soles at all if we’re talking about worn-down soles that have been used for several years. There’s really not much you can do to recreate the lugs that were initially there.
What you can do is have your shoes resoled – Vibram sells their soles to shoemakers, and you could have one put a brand new Vibram sole on any pair of shoes you want. What’s even better is that you can choose from different compounds, colors, and tread patterns, and pick exactly what type of sole you want.
That could take a while, and it requires that you find a good shoemaker who will let you choose everything about the sole and then order it on your behalf. Alternatively, you can just choose from the soles they have available at the workshop if you don’t want to wait long.
The key thing is to find a shoemaker who works with Vibram soles – everything else is easy peasy from there. You could also buy a Vibram sole and give it to the professional, but you would have to make sure that it’s a good fit for your shoe.
If you know how to resole shoes, you can easily do this on your own and save some money.
Vibram soles are mostly used by brands that specialize in outdoor gear, so Merrell, Danner, The North Face, Scarpa, etc. But they’re also used by lifestyle brands like UGG, Ralph Lauren, and Taylor Stitch, as well as brands that make work boots, athletic shoes, snow gear, and more.
Vibram soles are everywhere and that’s a good thing – when you see that yellow octagon on the bottom of the shoe, you can be certain that it’s tough, durable, and premium quality.
On top of that, you can even buy just the soles, which will come in handy if you ever need to resole your shoes. You can buy some soles on Vibram’s webshop and on Amazon, but the availability is limited. It’s also worth noting that with half soles, each part is sold individually. If you want to replace both the toe and the heel, you’ll need to buy them separately.
Vibram mostly sells products to manufacturers and shoemakers, and not so much to individuals. That’s why it will be much easier to just find a shoemaker who has access to Vibram soles if you’re looking to just have your shoes resoled.
Yes! The company is doing its best to enforce sustainable practices. They have six pillars that are the main focus of their sustainable efforts – governance, energy, no waste, training, and internal communication, a sustainable supply chain, and product innovation.
They are constantly trying to improve their practices and coming up with new and innovative ways to make their products as sustainable as possible. Their Eco soles are a great example of this – by recycling their by-products and post-consumer materials, they’re able to minimize the overall waste they make during production.
Additionally, Vibram has an ethics code and a zero-tolerance policy for all suppliers who breach the code in any way. They conduct audits to ensure that there are no breaches of their ethics code, which includes compliance with labor laws and regulations.
They also require their business partners to adopt policies that minimize work-related injuries, promote safe and clean work environments, and ensure that all workers are adequately compensated for their labor, including overtime pay.
On top of that, the company is committed to minimizing its environmental impact. They are slowly switching their factories to renewable energy – the Italian factory is already using 100% renewable energy. The company is also implementing various practices that will eventually get them to zero waste, including reduction of office consumable waste and eliminating hazardous waste.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.